Administration hopes to clarify vaping policy

By Pricila Flores and Zoe Null

Look in any remotely secluded place on campus and the $22 billion vaping industry’s effect on San Marin becomes apparent. The continuous wave of illegal usage at San Marin has posed a new problem for the administration. Currently there is no board policy specific to vaping, leading students to think that it is acceptable for them to possess vaping devices on campus.

Vaping is prevalent everywhere. According to a recent survey in Marin County, 47 percent of all 11th graders have tried vaping, and 28 percent vape regularly. These numbers have doubled in the past two years. This increase in vaping has also led to more high school students becoming addicted.

“We have consistent disciplinary issues with vaping,” Assistant Principal Mike Casper said. “It’s mainly our younger students, boys and underclassmen that seem to be the ones who are getting caught for it.”

Due to the rise in student use of vaping devices, Casper is currently working with Superintendent Jim Hogeboom to create a board policy for punishment related to vaping. Casper hopes to be proactive in addressing this issue.

“There are no excuses, when we find it your kid is going to get jammed up,” Casper said. “Keep this away from school. Period. End of story.”

The school board already has policies for tobacco, marijuana and alcohol, which are used as a base to punish students who are caught vaping. Vape pens can hold different types of liquid, including cannabis oil and flavored nicotine juice, which fall into the categories that the school board has already established repercussions for. Last year, however, Novato passed a bill banning the sale of flavored tobacco that has not yet gone into effect. The city believes this will crack down on vaping, making it the schools’ decision for the extent of the punishment.

“For vape pens or Juuls, I always give them [possession of] drug paraphernalia
[punishments],” Casper said.

The punishments given to students charged with the possession of drug paraphernalia can vary. It can either be a one to five day suspension or a trial taken to restorative justice if they are first-time offenders. Casper said it is challenging to gauge the seriousness of a drug offense because he has trouble identifying what the confiscated pods or vape pens contain.

“I have an okay idea of what’s in those [pods] but I can’t testify to it; I don’t know,” Casper said.

To combat the surge of students vaping on campus, San Marin hosted a parent information night on October 24. All parents were welcome, including those that did not have students who attend San Marin.

During the information night, Jasmine Geraty, a youth tobacco prevention consultant for Bay Area Community Resources, accompanied by a Terra Linda High School senior intern, gave a presentation exhibiting the chemicals in vape pens, the marketing strategies companies use and what can happen to a teenager’s brain as a result of vaping. After the presentation was over, parents asked questions.

Many of the parent’s questions pertained to where the students got Juuls. There was also concern regarding the lack of consistency with the punishment for vaping. Some parents wondered why some students are not getting kicked off of sports teams for the 40-day probation period that others receive.

When Principal Mark Sims coached basketball at his previous schools, he said he was “heavy-handed” with his punishments. However, he would keep students that had been caught with drugs or alcohol on the team, because for some of them, the only way to “keep them off the streets doing more drugs” was to keep them on the team.

“It is ultimately up to the coaches to decide the punishment,” Sims said, adding that some coaches have done a “great job” and some have not.

The lack of punishment has caused parents and the members of the school board to take a more active role in the prevention of vaping at San Marin. Parent school board members believe that since they were able to reduce the alcohol problem by taking it to the city, the same tactic will be successful again.

Some parents also believe that their children do not realize that there are repercussions for vaping on and off of campus. A majority of the parents believe there needs to be more education to prevent vaping. At the information night, parents voiced their own ideas on how to crack down on vaping.

“When we catch kids vaping, it’s the same kids that go into bathrooms during
break that meet up, bring a lot of attention to themselves, do it in the bathrooms for some reason, and get caught,” Casper said.

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